The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Committee hears the petition of area residents and members of the Brandon Chamber in connection with the Lithia Pinecrest Road widening project, specifically involving Segment B, the section between Lumsden Rd. and Bloomingdale Ave.

For the second time in as many months, the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Committee met last month in connection with the Lithia Pinecrest Rd. Segment B project, only to decide to sending its staff back to work to do more research and to revisit the topic next month.

Expecting an update and a comprehensive report on the now controversial topic, the MPO had raised a number of questions that its staff failed to provide answers to, forcing the issue to be discussed once again on Tuesday, April 24, with the hopes of having enough data to make an educated decision.

The drama unfolded in the presence of members of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on one side and concerned citizens on the other, both of whom had showed up in full force at the county center to support their claim.

The chamber maintains its conviction that the widening between Lumsden Rd. and Bloomingdale Ave., is safety related and that it is a way to ease the commute for people in the area, who are using this segment of the roadway, including the FishHawk Ranch community.

To opponents of the project, who own land and live along segment B, such claims do not justify what they describe as, the plan’s infringement of their property rights.

Community advocate George Niemann voiced his take on the meeting, saying  “as the workshop commenced, it became evident that the county staff failed to contact all of the businesses that are slated to be relocated and that they have yet to speak with the eight residences that were on the relocation list.”

According to the MPO Board, questions needing answers include: Were all of the businesses marked for relocation contacted by county staff? Why did the MPO staff fail to do outreach and report back on it to the Board? What would happen if they expanded the east/west roads instead of Lithia Pinecrest? What is the cost to complete the PD&E study?

Niemann said that prior to last months’ workshop, the MPO received 42 letters from residents opposing the widening, with no letters supporting it.

“The fact that there are either none, or very few support letters, reveals that local residents don’t want the tremendous problems that widening Segment B to four lanes will cause to their neighborhood and their quality of life,” Niemann said.

According to the current status, there are 61 businesses on Lithia Pinecrest between Lumsden and Bloomingdale, out of which 50 or more have expressed concern with the road design and the limited access that the widening will create.
Niemann contended that the county doesn’t appear to be interested in studying this issue, saying that  they have  limited their concerns to the businesses that are slated to be taken all together as part of the widening. 

“I plan to push the county to focus on this because the widening will kill 17 businesses initially in obtaining additional right-of-way, but may kill many more businesses due to the restricted access that the proposed divided highway will create,” he said. “I’m going to continue to bring this up until someone at the MPO and BOCC recognizes that they need to evaluate what impact the widening will have on the remaining businesses.”

The next MPO workshop is now scheduled for Tuesday, April  24, at 9 a.m., at the County Center.
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